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quantum, Schrodinger's Cat

Vodcast Episode Two: Quantum Absurdities, Part One

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Today we are going over quantum absurdities and showing how quantum physics is in fact highly absurd. This is part one of a two part series.

Click here to download the PDF transcript or read below the video.

You may also listen to or download an audio only version above.

[Note: Please note that this transcript may not exactly match the audio. However, there should be no significant differences.]

Intro

Metaphysics of Physics is the crucial voice of reason in the philosophy of science, rarely found anywhere else in the world today.

We are equipped with the fundamental principles of a rational philosophy that gives us the edge, may make us misfits in the mainstream sciences but also attracts rational minds.

With this show, we are fighting for a more rational world, mostly by looking through the lens of the philosophy of science.

We raise awareness of issues within the philosophy of science and present alternative and rational approaches.

The irrationality of modern physics is the focus of this channel. We have covered topics such as:

The irrationality of Stephen Hawking. The universe and the Big Bang. The philosophy of Niels Bohr. The achievements of Isaac Newton.Optical illusions and the validity of the senses.

If you think that science is about explaining a knowable reality, then this is the channel for you.

If you want to learn more about the irrationality of modern physics, then you are in the right place.

I am your host Ashna. My husband, Dwayne Davies is the primary content creator and your guide through the hallowed halls of the philosophy of science.

We will discuss the problems in modern physics and more and how we can live in a more rational world!

Check out our website at metaphysicsofphysics.com.

The Show Itself

Hi everyone! Welcome to the second episode of the Metaphysics of Physics video podcast. Today we are going over quantum absurdities and showing how quantum physics is in fact highly absurd.

While this is not an exhaustive list, it covers many of the essential absurdities.

What is the purpose of this? Yes, the mathematics of quantum theory is incredibly useful and impressive. But we want to show that the physical interpretations of quantum mechanics make no sense.

This is part one of a two-part series.

Particle Wave Duality

Quantum physics asserts that particles can be described as both a wave and a particle.

Albert Einstein had this to say about particle-wave duality:

It seems as though we must use sometimes the one theory and sometimes the other, while at times we may use either. We are faced with a new kind of difficulty. We have two contradictory pictures of reality; separately neither of them fully explains the phenomena of light, but together they do.

Albert Einstein

Until the early twentieth century, light was widely considered to be a wave, as demonstrated by Thomas Young.

Thomas Young
Thomas Young

But then Einstein showed that light seemed to have particle behavior! And Planck showed that light seemed to come in discrete packets.

So, was light a particle or a wave? Which was it? Later physicists alleged to show that light sometimes shows particle behavior and sometimes wave behavior.

This led them to conclude that light is somehow both a particle and a wave at the same time. And that it, somehow, sometimes behaves as a wave and sometimes behaves as a particle.

Does this make any sense? Well, of course not.

A wave is an abstract description. It describes the motion of something. It describes various relationships.

Take a sound wave. It is an abstract description of the movement of air that can be mathematically represented as a wave.

Or take a water wave. When we say “wave” in this context, we are describing water arranged in a certain pattern.

The pattern of rise and fall with peaks and troughs.

The concept of a water wave describes the relationship of positions between water molecules that makes this pattern.

In common speech, it is often said that a “water wave” or the like refers to the water molecules. This is the noun form of “wave” that describes something arranged like this (something that is waving).

We are using wave in its verb form, as a description of motion or behavior, or a description of some kind of relationship.

A wave is a behavior that a physical entity does. Water may move in a wave motion. Air molecules move in a wave pattern and we experience this as sound.

A wave is the behavior of physical entities. It is not a form of physical entity.

Saying that light is a wave is saying “Light is the movement or behavior of something”. It does not tell us what it is that is waving.

It is like if I held up a ball and asked what it is and you said “That is a bounce”.

You have told me something that the ball does but not what the ball actually is. Bouncing is what the ball does, it is not what the ball is.

Physics is the science of explaining the nature of the fundamental physical constituents of the universe. You want to explain what those things are and how they interact.

Saying “light is a wave, an abstract description of behavior” does not further that in any way and evades the question of what is doing the waving.

We do not even have to get into the issue that something cannot be a wave and a particle at the same time. Because a wave is a description of behavior while a particle is a description of what something is, its form.

The idea of particle-wave duality reifies an abstraction and attempts to reduce physical entities to an abstraction.

It also evades the Law of Identity that says that things are what they are. Something is either a particle or not. It is not a particle, a form of matter and also a wave, an abstraction.

Contradictions do not exist. If you think you see a contradiction in reality then check your premises, because one or more of them are wrong.

quantum, Schrodinger's Cat
That means no dead and alive zombie cats…

Indeterminacy

It is said that until they are observed, particles do not have a definite state. Instead, they exist in a state of “superposition”.

That is, they exist in multiple different, mutually exclusive states all at once. And then when an observation takes place, they take on definite values for their properties.

A property is merely an aspect of somethings existence. But any property of any particle can only exist in one state at a time. That particle’s property can only take one value at a time.

That is just another way of saying something is what it is and that it has a nature and its properties are determined by its nature. Its properties are simply an aspect of its nature and cannot be any different than what they are.

This implies that properties must have single, definite values, as determined by the nature of the entities in question.

Saying that particles exist in a superposition of states is equivalent to saying that those properties have no values and do not exist.

It is denying that a particle is what it is and instead treats it as some kind of Platonic combination of possibilities.

This reifies the idea that a particle can have different possible states and pretends that these possible states are all somehow real, independent of the particle and its nature.

Spacetime is NOT Swirling around a Dead Star

Today we are going to examine an article which claims that spacetime is swirling around a dead star. The article can be found here.

As many long-time followers of Metaphysics of Physics will know, we take issue with certain aspects of modern physics (for instance we talk about that here). That includes many of the central assertions of General Relativity(GR).

Key among these is the assertion that space and time are mathematical dimensions which are also somehow an aspect of physical reality. That they are somehow unified into some mathematical abstraction known as “spacetime”.

But space and time or spacetime are not things. Which is how GR and this article treats them. If it did not the whole premise and conclusion of this “thing” called spacetime swirling around a dead star falls apart. And this is exactly what happens when we define space and time as valid concepts.

Space and time are abstractions. And abstractions do not swirl or twist or dance around anything!

And spacetime is an invalid abstraction in as far as it is treated as anything other than a mathematical technique.

See, spacetime is apparently physical that is why it bends.

What is Space?

Space is a concept which indicates relationships between positions. Meaning?

Suppose that we consider one of the rooms in our house, say the living room. The living room is that part of the house between the four walls of the living room and between those four walls is some “space”.

The “space” within that room simply indicates relationships between the positions of those four walls. One wall is over here, another wall is over there and the other two are other there and there. In between is all this space. The space essentially refers to the separation between objects. This “space” then forms some area or volume in which you can find things.

The space in this room is simply a sum of places. Space is simply the relationships between boundaries of some kind of container or some otherwise defined set of bounding objects.

So, for instance, you can walk into the living room and say “Well, we have these walls. They are in different positions. There are other positions in between them.” And the sum of those other positions is the “space” inside the room.

(You can find more in episode twenty-one of the podcast, where this section was derived from).

What is Time?

Time measures motion or change. For instance, it takes two motions or changes and identifies a relationship between them.

For instance, suppose we are talking about how old I am. What fact of reality does my age refer to?

Well, we take two events, my birth and the writing of this article. And identify the fact that there is a certain relationship between these two. My birth happened during a particular revolution of the Earth around the Sun. This moment is occurring within a different revolution of the Earth around the Sun.

While I write this, 37 such revolutions have happened. And so I have thus identified a relationship between my birth and the writing of this article.

I could do something similar with myself starting a race and ending it. Except, presumably I would use a second to measure the relationship between the start and end of this event; a second as measured by the motion of a second hand around a clock or by a digital equivalent.

Or suppose I wish to measure how long it takes me for me to grow larger muscles and be able to work my way from bench pressing 100  to 125 pounds. And suppose I track the time using the date on my phone.

What am I measuring here? Relationships between my strength levels, a change in such over time.

(You can find out more about time in this subscription article).

We will go into what space and time are only far enough to see that they are abstractions. They are measurements of relationships.

What are Dimensions?

A dimension is a mathematical concept that indicates mathematical relationships. It is a technical concept that indicates how many independent parameters there are. In geometry, it indicates a set of coordinate axes required to specify any point.

The details are not important for this discussion. What is important is that dimensions are a mathematical concept that establishes mathematical relationships.

But physics treats dimensions as physical aspects of the universe. They treat the universe as if it was a thing that was somehow built up out of the dimensions. But space and time are not physical things, they are not aspects of the universe. They are relational concepts, they deal with abstractions.

space
Here is a representation of the mathematical concept of dimensions.

But relativity supposedly proves that space is a set of dimensions!

Does it? Show me the proof that shows this. Space is an abstraction, nothing in physics justifies treating it as though it is a physical thing that is somehow subject to bending or distortions as a physical object might be. The same is true about time.

The reason modern physicists do this is that they are reifying mathematical abstractions. They do not understand that mathematics is a science of method for measuring reality. They do not understand that the equations of Relativity do not describe physical objects.

What the equations describe are relationships. The equations need to be given a reasonable physical interpretation. Which is where rational metaphysics comes in. However  they refuse to engage in rational philosophy, instead choosing to interpret it in any way which is mathematically consistent. Without regard to logic, reason, that is, rational metaphysics.

What then to make of things getting shorter or longer based on relative speed? That objects get longer or shorter for other reasons. It does not justify the reification of  space.

Biblical Absurdities: How Much Space Does the Ark Need?

In this series, we look at the countless absurdities that can be found in the Bible. Today we are looking at the alleged dimensions of the Noah’s Ark and seeing whether there is any chance it could have held the animals it was supposed to.

I got bored and crunched some numbers and this came out. Obviously you don’t need math to show this is silly, but lets have some fun with this.

Note that I was rather generous and assumed that Noah only needed to keep these animals on the Ark for 150 days. Most scholars admit that this would have been more like 370 days.

Let’s assume the dimensions of the Ark given in the Bible. Genesis 6:15 gives us a figure of 300 by 50 by 30 cubits. Let us assume that a cubit is 21 inches. A cubit ranged from about 18-21 inches, but I am going with 21, as that was a common definition of the cubit given in Mesopotamia.

Why Mesopotamia? Many elements of the Biblical flood story seems to be taken from earlier flood legends around this region. So, I am going to go with this plausible figure that also gives an upper estimate for the alleged size of the Ark.

So, we have a volume of about 450,000 cubic cubits. Let us convert that to litres. Why? Because later we are going to figure out how much water and food the animals needed. Litres works well enough for both. We get about 68,292,270 or about 68 million litres.

Let’s go with a fairly conservative number of animals required, 70,000 animals.

This is obviously far too low. The Bible talks about “kinds” of animals. But the word “kind” employed here has no objective meaning. Animals are not divided into “kinds”, nor is the word “kind” given any definition.

Why does this matter? Because apologists will tell you Noah brought one of each kind onto the Bible. Not one of each species, but each kind. Even though the word “kind” has no meaning and apologists can consider several different species all the same kind.

For instance, they can say Noah had one couple of the lion kind, the tiger kind, the bear kind. Not several bear species, not hundreds of cat species, not thousands of bird species, but one bird kind and so forth.

This means they can say that Noah only needed enough animals to cover all the “kinds” of animals.

But they can only artificially create so many kinds without seeming clearly insane. Most people can easily see that even if you only count the land creatures, you need several thousand “kinds” of animals.

Scholars tend to agree that the 70,000 is a figure on the low side, so we will go with that. Again, we are being generous here.

Ark
This drunkard is the guy that built an impossible Ark?

Now, we are going to assume that the average animal is about the size of a sheep. This does not seem unreasonable and several Biblical “scholars” themselves use this metric.

We need to give them some space, let’s give each animal one meter cubed of space. That is 1000 litres, per animal, or 70 million litres required.

Too little, given many Biblical scholars claim that at least some of the dinosaurs were on the Ark! But, we will allow it. We are being very generous here.

A sheep requires about 3 litres of water a day. We will go with one litre, to make it be very generous. So, for 150 days we need like 31,500,000 (31.5 million) litres of water (which he has to keep fresh for 150 days).

For 370 days we need over

Yes, we need to bring along water. That is, fresh water. We cannot use salt water for this and Noah did not have magic to convert salt water to fresh water.

Unless you think he can gather 7,000 litres of salt water a day. And then covert all 7,000 litres of salt water to fresh water. No, I don’t think so.

Let’s assume about 1kg of food a day, probably a little generously low. We will assume the food has the density of water. We need like 10,500,000 (10.5 million) litres of food.

Granted food is denser than water, but we will definitely need more than 1kg of food a day on average.We are already 43,707,730 (43.7 million) litres short.

This is even though will actually need far more than 70,000 animals. And although we probably need more water than this and almost certainly more food. And we will need far more than on average one cubic meter of space per animal!

In fact, the animals themselves require more space than the Ark has to spare! The animals need 70 million liters of space but the Ark has under 69 million liters to spare!

And that is before we account for the fact we need to bring along food and water. Which require over 42 million more liters of space than the Ark has to spare!

The Ark is seriously short on volume, even if we make some pretty generous assumptions.

Whups, looks like our all-knowing God did not give Noah the right dimensions. This Ark was going to be big enough!

Now, what about if we assume Noah was on the Ark for 370 days?

He will need 77,700,000 litres of water. That is over 77 million litres of water.

He will need over 25,900,000 litres of food. That is almost 26 million liters of food.

Together he needs over 100,000 litres for food and water. Which is already far larger than the volume of the Ark, leaving no room for the animals themselves!

So much for the omniscience of God….

The Principle of Physical Interactivity

In this article, we talked about quantum entanglement. While doing so we touched on “action at a distance”. In this article we are going to use it as an introduction to the Principle of Physical Interactivity.

Introduction

Let us summarize action at a distance with a quote from the article:

Suppose you have two particles, particle A and particle B. Suppose these two particles can interact in some way such that if particle A does something, it will cause particle B to change state. Perhaps if particle A emits a smaller particle that strikes B, particle B will spin in a different direction. We will call that change in direction “event C”.

If particle A and particle B are to interact to cause event C, then some kind of physical action must occur. The particles must act upon each in some way which then causes event C.

Particle A will have to emit some particle, vibrate some physical connection between particle A and particle B. Or somehow affect some kind of physical interaction. An interaction being some kind of action taken by A which effects B.

Otherwise, how else could particle A cause particle B to change the direction of its spin? By non-physical means? Using an abstraction? I think not…

Let us try to put this more simply. Let us say that we have a computer and a wireless keyboard connected to the computer. It is connected by a wireless connection.

We will use these two macroscopic objects as our example. However, it is trivial to extend these examples to subatomic particles and apply some simple logic to them.

Even though modern physics insists the subatomic world is not rational. Or that it is not subject to the laws of logic.

Now, suppose we press the button “A” on the keyboard. As a result, the letter “A” now appears on the screen. In other words, our keyboard has interacted with the computer.

Now, what has happened here? Is this witchcraft? Should we expect the Spanish Inquisition?

Spanish Inquisition
Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! (Sorry, could not resist…)

I am going to explain this by laying down a simple principle, which I am going to call the Principle of Physical Interactivity.

The Principle of Physical Interactivity says that in physics, all objects that interact with one another do so by physically interacting with one another. All interactions in physics are the interactions of physical objects with each other.

What does this mean? What do I mean by physical? I mean that which has shape or “physical extension”. It is not an abstraction, not an attribute, not a relationship, not an action. It is a non-abstract entity.

So, when I say that all objects interact via physical means, I mean that this interaction takes place when two physical objects act upon one another.  The interaction is not by means of abstractions. It is via the actions of physical entities.

Take the computer and the keyboard. Are they physically interacting? Yes. There are physical objects of some kind traveling from the keyboard to the computer. Or some other kind of physical activity in the keyboard which causes another physical action to take place in the computer.

That interaction might be described by saying that there are waves traveling from the keyboard to the computer. The waves are abstract descriptions of some kind of motion/relationship.

In that case, the keyboard interacts with the computer by some physical process involving the keyboard interacting with some kind of physical medium.

The point of the Principle of Physical Interactivity is that some kind of physical interaction is required.

Waves
What about waves? We shall see about them in a bit….

Must Objects Touch?

What does it mean for objects to touch? I take it that they must have direct physical contact. Is this necessary?

No. The Principle of Physical Interactivity merely says that there must be physical interaction. It does not require that two objects are in direct physical contact.

Let us return to the example of our computer and wireless keyboard. For the wireless keyboard to send a signal to the computer, must the keyboard and the computer be touching? Must they be in direct contact via some part of each other?

The Principle of Physical Interactivity does not require this. It merely requires some kind of physical interaction. It does not require that the computer and the keyboard directly touch one another.

Other Forms of Contact?

Must there be some kind of invisible thread directly connecting the keyboard and the computer? The Principle of Physical Interactivity does not require this either. Physical interaction need not take place via objects such as a thread that directly connects the two objects.

How then can they interact? Well, the keyboard might send waves through a medium such as air, which the computer picks up.

Hold on now, I thought waves were abstractions? Additionally, I thought you said that the computer and the keyboard must interact by physical means?

The wave is an abstract description of objects taking some kind of action, of causing something to move through the air in a wave pattern and to hit the computer. Therefore, the keyboard and the computer do interact by physical means.

(Note that here on this site, we define waves as a kind of abstraction that describes motion or some other kind of relationship. Thus when we say “there is a water wave”, what we are talking about is an abstract description of a bunch of water molecules arranged in that shape.

The referents of the concept of wave is the water molecules, the concept of “wave” describes the fact that they related in that pattern).

This is still a kind of physical interaction between the computer and the keyboard that causes the letter “A” to appear on the screen.

To sum up, this physical interaction does require some form of physical interaction via touch or some other form of medium.

infinity

Infinity: A Number or A Potential?

Infinity is a subject we have touched on before. However, it is not a subject we have covered in great depth. Today we are going to do just that.

We will see why infinity is not a number, is not a quantity and how it refers to a kind of potential.

What is Infinity

If you Google “infinity”, you will find that it provides the following mathematical definition of  infinity:

A number greater than any assignable quantity or countable number (symbol ∞).

Is infinity a number? What is a number and does infinity qualify as a number?

A number is an abstraction that refers to quantity. The concept of quantity counts something, measures relationships or measures some measurable aspect of something.

Counting something is identifying a kind of relationship and saying “there are these things that are related in as far as they are instances of the same class of object”.

The “number” of such objects refers to a collection of instances of something. This one and this one and so forth until each of them has been identified. In the context of counting, the number of entities is simply a way of referring to all the entities in the collection.

Numbers are also used to measure relationships or properties of things. Note that such numbers are simply measurements that refer to relationships between entities or properties of entities. The numbers refer to some aspect of the relationship or attributes in question.

Note that in either case you are either referring directly to entities or measuring some aspect of something. You are identifying quantifiable relationships.

The purpose of numbers is to measure quantifiable relationships.

measuring
That is what mathematics is all about measuring and quantifying relationships and measuring attributes of things.

So, then, is infinity a number?

No, it is not a number. Why not? Because it does not refer to quantity. It does not refer to countable things or quantifiable and measurable attributes of entities.

It refers to a potentiality. What kind of potentiality?

To understand this, we will need to look at an example of a series that is said to be infinite, the natural numbers.

The natural numbers, also called the counting numbers are all the numbers used for counting. So, it includes 1, 2, 3 … 100 … one hundred billion and so forth.

How many natural numbers are there? Does this sequence of numbers have a size? Are there only so many natural numbers and no more? If you kept listing them, would you eventually run out? No.

You could start listing natural numbers at any point. You can start with 1 or three hundred Googleplex (a Googleplex is 10(10^100) or one with ten to the power of one hundred zeroes).

At some point, you must stop counting them. You cannot keep listing these numbers indefinitely, you must stop at some point.

No matter where you eventually stop, there is always the potential to have progressed and to have counted out more natural numbers.

At no point will you have “run out of natural numbers”.

Had you have kept going, you always could have counted out more numbers in the sequence.

Or suppose you start with one and form a sequence that starts with one and then halves the previous number each time. So, you start the sequence like this:

1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8 .... 1/256 ... 1/1,048,576 ....

Is there any point at which you can stop halving the previous number? There is not. There is always the potential to continue halving the previous number to get an even smaller number.

Eventually, you might start making up names for the extremely small numbers, but if you were to keep going, you could write down these extremely small numbers.

Or, suppose you start listing the digits of the number pi. You list one digit, and then you list another and another and you find that you can keep listing digits of pi for as long as you want, you can always find further digits of pi.

The sequence of digits in pi has no hard limit, you can keep listing them for as long as you want. But at some point you will have to stop, you cannot do for it forever.

This is what infinity refers to.

It refers to the fact that when progressing in certain mathematical sequences, you must stop at some point. But no matter where you do stop, there is always the potential to have progressed in the sequence.

That is, no matter where you stop in such a sequence, if you were to have kept going, you would never run out of terms in the sequence. The sequence will never run out of terms.

The size of such mathematical sequences is not quantifiable. It does not make sense to say that such sequences have a size. Yes, you can count how many terms you identify within a sequence, but the sequence itself does not have a size.

Such a sequence has terms and no matter how many of them you identify, there is the potential to have continued. But there is not a specific number of elements in the sequence, it does not have a size. There is not a quantifiable number of elements in the sequence. The concept of size simply does not apply to such sequences.

infinity space
Is the universe infinitely large? No, it has a finite size! We cover that in episode three of the podcast!

In this sense, the natural numbers are an infinite sequence. This simply means that no matter how many of them you find, there is always the potential to find more of them.

It is important to note that you cannot ever identify an infinite number of terms in such sequences. You can only identify so many terms before you must stop.

No identification of terms can go on forever. Such processes go for a finite period, they must stop at some point, as must all processes.

Infinity refers to a potentiality to continue in a sequence. Infinities are potentials but not actualities. There are no actual infinities.

probability, dice, die

The Role of Probability in Science.

Today we are looking at the proper role of probability in science. And how this has been subverted by modern physics. Let us first look at what probability is.

Let us suppose that we want to roll a six on a six-sided playing die. We know that on average, we will roll a six about one time per six rolls of the die. That is, if we roll the die six times, we would expect to get a six about one time.

We could throw the die twenty times and get six zero times. But we would be surprised if this happens. We would consider this to be a very unlikely event.

The more superstitious person might consider oneself cursed!

We say that the probability, or chance, of rolling a six is one in six. But what do we mean by this? What does the concept of “probability” describe?

There is much that can be said about calculating and determining probabilities in a huge range of imaginable contexts. Mathematics has much to say on this topic and we can use it to calculate/estimate all sorts of probabilities using very sophisticated methods.

But we will keep things simple and ask what the concept tells us about reality, using simple examples.

Probability is a method of dealing with uncertainty.

It takes certain processes, such as rolling a die or predicting the weather. These kinds of processes are very difficult to predict. We have little ability to be certain what the outcome(s) of these processes might be.

For instance, consider rolling a die. Although it seems to be a very simple process, we cannot track all of the tiny motions of the die. We do not have any way of knowing exactly how it will dance through the air and then strike the table.

probability, dice, die

Such simple looking things, but it is next to impossible to predict the outcome of throwing them!

Or consider the weather. This is an extremely complex thing to predict. Countless factors go into determining the weather on any particular day or even hour. So many that we currently have no reliable way to account for them all and we likely never will.

What do we do? If we cannot account for all of the relevant factors and make any certain predictions, then do we throw our hands in the air and give up? We could, but often that is not a good option.

So, what then are we to do? Should we accept that it is difficult to predict the outcome with any certainty? Or should we try to estimate the relative frequency of certain outcomes?

Can we do this, can we estimate the relative frequency of certain outcomes? And how is this useful?

Here we want to estimate how often certain outcomes will happen relative to others. If the process occurs this many times, how often do we estimate we would get this result or this other result?

In other words: we want some way to determine how likely something is to happen. Is it very unlikely or quite likely to happen? Should we expect it to happen often or not very often? This is what probabilities will help us estimate.

This is all probability is, an estimate of the likelihood of a given event to occur. That is, how often a given even is expected to occur.

This helps us estimate whether we should expect something to happen in a given instance or whether we should expect it not to. As well as to estimate how often a given event might happen.

Since we cannot keep track of all the factors that determine the outcome of certain phenomena, probabilities help us deal with uncertainties. We might not be able to account for everything and predict the outcome with much certainty, but we can estimate what the results might be.

This can help us determine which results to expect and which not to expect and how often those results might happen.

This the proper role of probability in the sciences: dealing with uncertainties typically caused by our inability to track complicated or unpredictable phenomenon.

Say we find it difficult to predict the movements of an electron. We do not understand how to predict precisely where it will be two seconds from now.

However, we do know certain things about electrons. We know enough to predict that it is likely it will be somewhere in this area here. It is not likely to be in these other areas. While we cannot be certain where it will be, we at least have some ability to predict its behaviour and we might be able to do something useful.

Or take the weather. It is very hard to be certain what the weather will do days from now. But we can understand meteorology well enough to be fairly certain that on some days it will most likely rain. Or that rain is unlikely. We might not be certain and we might be wrong, but we know enough to advise people that they should prepare for these outcomes, as they are quite likely.

probability

The weather is a very complicated thing. We need a lot of very, very complicated math to predict probabilities here. And we know how often it can be wrong ….

In all these cases we are dealing with uncertainty and allowing ourselves to have some understanding of what to expect when faced with uncertainty. We might not be certain, but we know enough to say something about what is happening.

Now let us get into something more controversial.

In quantum mechanics, there is the concept of probability. But it is not treated as a method of dealing with uncertainty and making predictions about possible outcomes. There it is treated as … something else.

In quantum mechanics, the behaviour of particles is said to exist in some kind of indefinite limbo state until observed. Particles are neither here nor there but in a superposition of positions. They do not have any definite momentum and so forth. Such properties take singular, definite values only when they are observed.

One might expect that they take some definite value according to some causal mechanism. However, that is not the case, not according to quantum mechanics. Once a particle is observed, it is said that the “probability waveform” of the particle collapses and then each property takes on a definite value.

In other words, particles do not have any definite nature. They are treated as things with no definite nature. As something not fully real.

string theory

Some String Theory Absurdities

Today we are going to take a quick look at some of the central absurdities of string theory. Some of you will already know about these, while others might like a quick refresher or not know as much.

We will also briefly refute these absurdities and in doing so show some of the reasons why they are so absurd.

Let us start with something central to string theory:

The number of dimensions that string theory says space-time needs.

In string theory, it is believed that to unify quantum theory and relativity and explain physics, there must be more than the three dimensions of space and one of time. How many further dimensions there is, is a matter of some debate, but it typically starts with about nine or eleven. But it goes as high as 26!

What does it mean for space-time to have dimensions? That somehow dimensions are a physical part of the universe! When as we have discussed before, they are simply mathematical abstractions.

There are two kinds of things that exist.

Abstractions and physical entities. If something exists it must be one of these, there is no third option. Physics studies the physical world, the entities that physical reality consists of. Those which are primary and are not abstractions. And it uses abstractions to do so.

The concept of a “dimension” is just that, a concept, that is an abstraction. It studies the relationships between entities. This is just an abstraction used to study those relationships and they have no physical existence.

Modern physics likes to pretend otherwise, as though the universe is somehow made from dimensions, that is abstractions. And that we observe the three-dimensions of space and one of time. But not the dimensions after the first four.

It claims that the reason we do not observe these “higher” dimensions is that they are “hidden”, somehow “rolled out of the way” so that they cannot be observed. This is alleged to be performed by resorting to mathematical trickery. But of course, all of that is completely unnecessary.

We have seen this many times, but this is something like what they imagine the “hidden” dimensions might look like. Yeah…

The reason that we do not observe these higher dimensions is that they are not observable as though they were aspects of the universe. We do not observe the three dimensions of space as though they were something we could see. For that matter, we do not observe time as though watching a clock tick is the same thing as observing time.

We do not observe any of the dimensions!

We do not observe these abstractions, at least not in the sense that we observe physical things. Dimensions are abstractions, not physical things that can be observed or even inferred to physically exist.

So, it is pointless to try to use complicated mathematics to rationalize why we cannot see the dimensions. Why should we expect to? They are not physical things, they are abstractions. It would make about as much sense to try to rationalize why we cannot see the concept of justice itself or why we cannot touch the concept of “likeness” qua the concept likeness.

String theory is itself premised on the notion that reality is made from one-dimensional “strings”. This makes no sense whatsoever. What does it mean for something to be “one-dimensional”? Nothing at all. This is mathematical nonsense.

Everything that physically exists (is not an abstraction) is a three-dimensional object. Electrons, quarks or atoms, if they physically exist, have three-dimensions. They have some height, depth and length (or whatever you wish to name each of the three dimensions).

Why? Every physical object has shape and that implies that it must have some extension in each of the three dimensions. Therefore, they are all three-dimensional. Dimension is a concept; it refers to the extension of an entity viewed from different perspectives.

If we take it to be true that physical entities are three-dimensional, then we must wonder how string theory can hope to help by postulating the existence of one-dimensional entities. Or, since physical entities cannot be one-dimensional, how does it help to discuss one-dimensional non-physical entities? How does it help to explain reality in terms of one-dimensional concepts?

Trying to explain our physical reality by reducing reality to a series of mathematical abstractions is of no help whatsoever.

Multiple Universes

Now let us consider the claim that string theory implies that there must be multiple universes, perhaps a practically endless number of them. As many as 10^500 of them. That is 10 with 500 zeroes at the end! That is an unimaginably large number!

This clearly makes no sense. The universe is simply an abstraction that refers to “everything that exists”. It is not simply a subset of existence or something of which there can be more than one. No, it is simply an abstraction that subsumes everything. We talk more about this in episode three of the podcast.

How can you have multiple of “everything that exists”? You cannot. How does string theory think it can away with saying that you can? It cannot, but that does not stop them from talking about it a whole lot.

Why? Because they cannot figure out that the universe is the way it is. Why is it this way and not some other way? Why don’t we live in a universe with different physical constants or where gravity works differently?

string theory

The absurd pointlessness of all this does not stop the likes of Brian Greene writing countless tedious books about it…

We can certainly find out why some things work the way they do. Chemistry works because atoms work like so. Magnets work because of the magnetic field. And the magnetic field works for this and that reason.

Eventually, we are going to run out of the ability to explain stuff. There is no infinite regress to explanations. We must accept that we have explained everything we can and somethings just are. We might have found the most fundamental existents in nature and how they work. But it would make no sense to ask “why”. Why do they exist? Why don’t we live in a universe where they don’t exist or work differently?

There are no answers to such questions. We just have to  accept that some things are and we will never know why.

But the idea of parallel universes is meant to somehow skirt these fundamental limitations by assuming that everything has an alternative. Even the most fundamental aspects of nature.

That is not so. Nor does the idea of postulating arbitrary alternatives to everything help us understand anything. Yes, sometimes considering alternatives can help us gain insight into the way things are, but not always. Many other times this is pointless, especially when those alternatives are impossible and give no insight into how things are.

There is no alternative to existence as such, but that is exactly what the concept of parallel universes alleges! This might be a fun mental exercise but suggesting it as a metaphysical proposition is beyond foolish. It certainly does not explain anything.

What are Fields? Not Numbers Glued to Space!

[Yes, the featured image for this is not technically a field. It is a Feynman diagram, but it shows the kind of  thing a field actually represents].

If you have studied much physics, then you will have come across the notion of fields.

What is a field?

The Wikipedia article fairly sums up the standard definition of a “field”:

In physics, a field is a physical quantity, represented by a number or tensor, that has a value for each point in space-time.

Wikipedia.

At first, this might sound an awful lot like a mathematical description of something. Surely it is a mathematical description of the property of something. If so, what is it a mathematical description of?

Does it describe the attributes of stuff in that space? Does it describe relationships between attributes of things in space? Or the actions of something in that region?  These are the questions we need to ask ourselves.

When it is said that a field is a physical quantity, do they attach it to anything? Does it describe the attributes or relationships of matter or anything at all? Or is it just a set of numbers attached to space?

Is it proper to attach numbers to space like this?

Of course not. Space is not a physical thing; it is a concept. It refers to relationships between positions of things. We talk more about space in this article. Space can be said to have some quantities, such as area or volume.

It is perfectly valid to measure aspects of “space” if you keep in mind that what you are measuring is the relationship between entities.

You can even say, that in a sense, space can have measurable quantities such as vacuum permittivity. If you understand that this refers to the properties of or relationships between entities within that space and not the actual space itself.

However, space itself has no physical properties. It is not a kind of matter nor is space-time a special kind of existence. It has none of the sorts of attributes which should be assigned only to matter.

Does this mean that we should throw out the concepts of fields in physics?

No, I don’t think so and I will show why.

The concept of a field is certainly applicable to physical reality. We know that the concept of an electromagnetic field can be used to derive real-world quantities of physical things and to figure out how they should act.

The concept of an electromagnetic field accurately describes something “out there” in reality.

It does not describe numbers floating around magically attached to space. It describes the attributes of things spread within that space, how they act and how they are related. And it is these things which a field tells us about and which a field should help us to understand.

For instance, the electromagnetic field does not describe “space” as such. It tells us about the properties of and relationships between things in that space. It describes attributes of charged particles within a space and how they interact with one another.

Note that the gravitational field does not describe the curvature of space-time. Space is simply a relationship between positions and time is simply a measure of change.

There is no such super-entity of space-time which somehow curves and somehow explains gravity. No. The gravitational field equations describe the properties of things and how they interact.

Sorry Einstein, general relativity does not explain how gravity works.

So, if fields describe the attributes of things and how they interact, what are these things?

This is not a philosophical question as much as it is a physics question. It could be that the answer to “what do fields describe” is that we have not yet noticed the proper way things interact. Perhaps gravity is explainable by some interaction we have not yet observed.

Perhaps to better understand how the various fields in quantum mechanics works, we need to better understand the quantum world. Which would, incidentally, require understanding the quantum world in terms of objective reality and not magic.

Of all the fields, I would say the electromagnetic one is the most understood. But, unless one can explain the electromagnetic field in terms of the properties, actions or interactions of entities, then one does not properly understand what a field is or what it refers to.

Saying “well, space has all of these quantities” is not enough, you need to show how these quantities are the properties, actions or interactions of entities.

Note, that it is fine to admit that we do not yet understand what these fields describe. If we can show that these field equations we have are indeed how this stuff works, then this is an important step. And to be fair, the field equations we have are generally quite successful here.

It is important to acknowledge this. We can make a lot of progress understanding how things behave by studying field equations, making predictions and showing that yes, that is how that stuff works.

However, at some point, we should try to figure out more about what the fields are describing. We should not just stop at the math and say “well, space has these numbers stuck to it”. No, we should try to study the nature of the entities the numbers are describing.

And that is where modern physics fails.

We don’t know what the fields are or what they describe. Certainly not completely, not fully.

fields
This is something like what a field is … not space with numbers glued to it.

Many in physics do see that we should try to figure this out. Many others do not seem to see any need, as though the mathematics is somehow some kind of primary. When it evidently is not.

This is the kind of attitude we need to challenge. Unfortunately, I have no doubt, we will see a lot more of this in our continued exploration of the problems in modern physics.

If you see any physicists or anyone else talking about fields in a rational way, please let us know. We are aware such people exist; however, we would love to collect more such examples. Please message us on Facebook or contact us at contact@metaphysicsofphysics.com.

What is Physics?

Physics is the study of the fundamental nature of the physical world. It studies the nature of the most fundamental of the physical things that make up existence and how they interact with one another.

In other words:

Physics studies the fundamental nature of the physical world, of matter and the mechanisms by which it works.

Note the use of the word “matter”. Everything in physics ultimately describes the attributes of physical objects and how they interact with one another. There is nothing in physics which does not reduce to this.

Please note that “matter” is not synonymous with “particles”. By matter, I simply mean physical stuff. Physics is about the fundamental physical stuff of existence and how it interacts.

Whatever aspect of existence you study in physics, ultimately you must refer to physical entities. This is what I call the “primacy of physical existence“.

Which is another way of stating the primacy of existence, but focusing on the fact that the primary constituents of existence are all physical.

What does it mean for something to be physical? What is a physical entity and are they primary?

To say that something is physical is to say that it exists and does not exist as a concept. It is something which exists not as a concept but as a separate entity. It is not an attribute, it is not a relationship.

Attributes are aspects of entities and relationships also pertain to entities. To be a physical entity is to exist as a non-conceptual existent with attributes and with relationships with other things that exist.

A simple way to look at this is to say that matter is that which has shape (credit to Bill Gaede for this simple formulation). That which does not have shape is not matter and is a concept.

Note, that by “shape” I do not mean that it has to be assigned a mathematical shape. I simply mean that the object has to have physical extension. It has to be some physical object with definite boundaries.

A gas cloud is made out of atoms/molecules bumping into each other. A gas cloud has physical extension, hence it is “physical” in the sense being used here.

A blob of dough has a shape, even if we have no idea what to call that shape. It is a material object with physical extension and not a concept.

Here shape is not used to refer to specific geometric forms such as circles, squares or, say, polyhedral objects.

Here shape is defined as:

The external form, contours, or outline of someone or something.

There, to say that physical objects are things with shape, is to say that something has an external form and boundaries. That is, it has physical extension.

If it has physical extension, if it has boundaries, if it confined to specific regions/places than it is physical. If it is an entity that exists and is not an abstraction, it is physical.

These physical existents are primary to physics. Everything in physics ultimately describes the attributes of physical entities, relationships between physical entities or the actions of physical entities. There is nothing else for physics to deal with.

Every concept in physics describes the actions of some physical thing.  Actions are the actions of entities, not of concepts.

If a so-called theory describes the actions of concepts, then it is not physics. At least, it is not rational physics. And it is certainly not a valid theory.

Take electricity. You can talk about current, charge, voltage all you want, but in order to understand any of this, you must eventually bring in the physical object known as the electron and so forth.

Lightning used to be considered divine! But, now we understand it is related to the properties of charged particles.

In order to describe how the atom works, you have to bring in the physical objects that make up the atom.

Once you start, say, talking about electrons as “probability clouds” you are no longer doing physics. This is bad mathematics and attempts to turn probability, a valid mathematical abstraction, into some kind of physical thing.

What about black holes? They are described as infinitely dense “regions of spacetime”. But what is a region of spacetime? Is it a physical object?

No. Spacetime is some a combination of two mathematical abstractions, space and time. They are not physical things and neither is spacetime.

Space relates to the relationship between the positions of objects. Time is measurement of motion/change.

So if we talk about regions of spacetime, are we talking about physical objects? No. We are talking about abstractions.

Besides, physical objects cannot be infinitely small. Nor can they be infinitely dense. Everything that exists has a finite size and by implication, a finite density.

So, this black hole “physics” is not really talking about a known physical thing or things. It is a bunch of assertions about a mathematical point which sucks matter into it. How is this physics? It is not.

What about gravity? Gravity is treated as the curvature of spacetime. But this is not a physical explanation. It does not reduce gravity to properties or actions of physical entities, as it should.

But space and time are abstractions, so to try to explain gravity by something that happens to abstractions is not physics.

Remember, physics is about the properties of and the interactions of physical objects. That is the nature and actions of physical entities.

Not about abstractions which somehow do things and somehow cause interactions such as gravity. Once you try to reduce gravity to something that abstractions do, you are no longer doing physics. You are abusing mathematics.

We do not understand energy. For some reason we often do not treat energy as if it was describing the properties or actions of physical objects. We treat it as though it is somehow an alternative to matter. As though it was not an abstract description of some aspect of matter.

But, energy is not some form of an alternative to matter. We cannot turn matter into energy and vice versa.

Energy is a concept, it describes properties or actions of matter. And you cannot turn matter into a concept or concepts into matter!

Some would counter by postulating that the ultimate constituents of reality may prove to be energy and not matter. But that is not possible.

We do not know what energy is, but we do know that it is an abstraction which describes some attribute or action of matter. That or it describes something matter does.

Physics must, of course, include a great many concepts. But those concepts describe the nature and relationships of matter. That is the business of physics, describing matter.

Not of describing moving concepts. Not describing concepts which are not able to be reduced to a description of matter and its relationships/interactions.

Physics is not the same thing as mathematics. It is the study of the physical world and the mechanisms of how that physical world works. It is not the study of mathematical constructs and how they are related.

Physics describes the nature of physical objects and not the relationships of mathematical constructs. Physics does not end at mathematical descriptions. That is where we begin to understand matter and its relationships.

This might help us tease out some physics, but it is not the same thing as explaining natures mechanisms.

But we have to tease out the facts of reality the mathematics is describing. We must not end with mathematics, we must use it to find out the nature of what we are describing.

Mathematics hints at the mechanisms of nature. But mathematics is not how nature works. We do not explain how something works by throwing up an equation.

If I ask you “How does gravity work?”, you cannot answer that question by pointing to a blackboard of mathematical equations. No, equations are not how gravity works. That math is simply a statement of quantitative relationships.

Quantitative relationships do not explain the mechanism by which something works. Mathematics is just that, a description of quantitative relationships. Mathematics is not an explanation of causal mechanisms.

If I ask how magnets work, you cannot explain how by saying “it is fields” and then claiming that a field is just a mathematical equation.

Let us look at the concept of fields. What is a field? If you look into this enough, you will find that a field is alleged to be a bunch of numbers attached to points in space.

So, a field is a bunch of numbers attached to space? What is space? An abstraction describing relationships. But physics tends to treat space as a mathematical abstract.

So a field is a bunch of numbers attached to a mathematical abstraction? That does not get us any closer to understanding what these fields really are. It does not get us any closer to understanding fields in terms of physical objects and how they interact.

Fields are not just numbers stuck to space. These field equations describe some kind of interaction between physical entities. Fields are not made out of matter as such, but they seem to describe attributes of matter and/or their interactions.

Read more about fields and how they are mathematical descriptions, here.

But if we decide that they are numbers attached to space, it is unlikely we will figure this out.

If your “physics” is just a bunch of mathematical equations then you have failed to do physics. What you have is math. It might be good math, it might accurately describe reality. It might enable predictions, but it is still not physics.

Physics is about physical objects and their mechanisms. Not mathematical description and predictions.

Note that mathematics is essential to physics. It is no accident that very little progress in physics was made until calculus and other advanced mathematical techniques were developed. But why is this?

Remember what we said mathematics was and what its purpose was. Mathematics is the science of method that allows us to identify attributes and relationships. In particular, those that cannot be directly perceived.

Much of physics deals with these attributes and relationships. Much of physics pertains to attributes and relationships which we cannot directly perceive. But which we can measure using mathematics.

brain biases

Episode Twenty Two – Biases, AI and Current Affairs

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Today we are talking about inherent biases, AI, time travel and faster than light travel. And then we will go over a shocking legal decision.

[Note: Please note that this transcript may not exactly match the audio. However, there should be no significant differences.]

Click here to download the PDF transcript.

Intro

Metaphysics of Physics is the much needed and crucial voice of reason in the philosophy of science, rarely found anywhere else in the world today. We are equipped with the fundamental principles of a rational philosophy that gives us the edge, may make us misfits in the mainstream sciences but also attracts rational minds to our community.

With this show, we are fighting for a more rational world, mostly by looking through the lens of the philosophy of science. We raise awareness of issues within the philosophy of science and present alternative and rational approaches.

We are your hosts and guides through the hallowed halls of the philosophy of science. Dwayne Davies, my husband, is the founder, primary content creator and voice for Metaphysics of Physics. I am Ashna and I help out however I can. You can find out more about us on the About page of the website.

You can also find all the episodes, transcripts, subscription options and more on the website at metaphysicsofphysics.com.

Hi everyone! This is episode twenty-two of the Metaphysics of Physics podcast. Today we are talking about inherent biases, artificial intelligence and parental neglect in the current affairs section.

Inherent Biases

The other day, one of our listeners shared a diagram on Facebook. It purported to show which parts of the brain are responsible for various cognitive biases. This is nonsense for many reasons, but we will explore some of the most obvious ones.

Firstly, this treats cognitive biases as though they were inherent functionalities of the brain. As though the reason we are sometimes guilty of these biases is that neurons in some specific part of our brains are firing.

But this is not how cognitive biases work. It is not as though they are the result of the hard-wired structures of our brain.

brain biases

Lets see if we can find the parts of the brain responsible for other biases? No, I don’t think we can either …

They are the result of a failure to properly reason. When we accuse someone of a cognitive bias, we are essentially saying “Well, what you said is not consistent with reality. You have made an error.”. They are not biases. There is nothing inherent in our brain which makes us more prone to make such errors.

But that is what this chart would like us to believe. That there are some parts of the brain which make us inherently inclined to such errors. But that is not how it works. Such errors are simply the result of improper reasoning or evading to reason at all.

If these so-called biases were indeed localized like this, then why is it relatively easy to avoid these biases? Why is it that the better one learns to think, the least subject they are to such biases? Why is it that highly logical people with sound reasoning skills seldom, if ever, are subject to such biases?

What is the motive behind all of this?

To excuse poor reasoning and to try to avoid the need to overcome the tendency some of us have towards these so-called biases. That way they can be poor thinkers and then blame their brain for being wired that way. And minimize or avoid the need to learn to avoid them by learning to think more rationally.

They want to evade responsibility for being prone to these biases. As though they cannot help it if they have biases built into their brain!

They can help it. By learning to reason properly to avoid such biases. But they would rather not accept the responsibility of learning to properly reason. It can be a long and difficult process. They would rather not do the work.

Learning to reason well involves a lot of practice and study for many of us. Effort some would not rather not make.

Perhaps some of them see little value in learning to reason. Why learn to reason when you can continue to be a poor thinker? And instead, pretend to be a victim of the unfortunate alleged structure of your brain.

This is a form of intellectual cowardice and laziness. And I find this morally reprehensible. It is difficult to imagine anything as immoral as the evasion of the need to learn to think rationally.

We should do our utmost to recognize any flaws in our thinking processes and attempt to learn to avoid them. That is how we become more rational and better able to deal with the world around us. Which is how we lead better and happier lives.

An Interesting Comment on AI

We recently received an interesting comment from one of our audience. It got us thinking and we have an answer you might find interesting. Here is the comment:

One possible way in which AI may emerge is the continual replacement of human parts until there is no longer any organic parts left.

e.g. as of today, I can replace most parts of a human, legs, arms, heart, most organs etc.

On the head I can replace the eyes, ears, nose & some parts of the brain.

As we understand more of what it is to be human, we will be able to replace more of the brain.

Eventually, the “consciousness” part of the brain will be replaced & on that day we will have an artificial AI or artificial human.

So, like organic evolution I think artificial evolution will occur in steps over a significant time period, but significantly less than that required by organic evolution i.e. 1000s of years not millions

Note: Given the expansiveness of the universe the only way humans can explore it is to evolve into artificial bodies since cosmic radiation is lethal to organic life & time travel & FTL travel are an impossibility.